Story by Sheldon S. Shafer of the Courier-Journal. For original story, click here.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 21, 2016) — A $2 million gift to a Louisville Zoo capital campaign to help pay for a revamp of the elephant exhibit from the family of the late Harry Frazier was announced last week by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and zoo officials.
Much of the money from the Fraziers — Brown-Forman Corp. heirs — has gone to pay for a major renovation and expansion of the elephant quarters. The exhibit has been newly named the Harry Frazier Family Elephant Encounter, Fischer said.
Frazier’s widow, Jean Frazier, and daughter Sandra Frazier, attended the announcement made in front of the exhibit. Elephants Mikki and Punch prowled their premises behind the speaker’s stand. The Fraziers have made other major zoo donations, including to help pay for the Glacier Run arctic-themed exhibit.
The elephant exhibit makeover and some other nearby enhancements have been completed for a spell but were dedicated Wednesday.
The elephant exhibit upgrade doubled the size of the elephant yard and included new barricades to minimize contact between the animals and keepers.
Including the gift from the Fraziers, the zoo and its foundation have so far raised about $8.9 million in pledges.
The projects being funded with the current capital campaign pledges include:
- $3 million for a snow leopard exhibit to open in 2019
- $710,000 for a PNC “Cub House” classroom to open in 2018
- $840,000 for an African primate exhibit to open in 2017
- $1 million for a small-penguin exhibit to open this spring.
The showcase improvement is the $3 million for the newly completed revamping of the elephant exhibit and also for an African Outpost walkway and sculpture garden near the elephants’ home.
The reworking of the elephant exhibit — one of the zoo’s most popular visitor features — is intended to bring the zoo in line with new elephant-care guidelines recently adopted by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the professional accrediting agency of zoos.
The new guidelines call for exhibit layouts that greatly minimize — if not eliminate — all direct contact between the elephants and their caretakers, or the number of times that zoo staff and elephants share the same space.
The exhibit revamp includes more than doubling the size of the elephant yard, to around 22,000 square feet of outdoor space. The enlargement gives the elephants access to more trees. And the new layout includes new concrete, fence-like structures, both in the barn and in the yard.
The fence in the barn has separations that allow handlers to reach through and interact — feeding, washing — the animals, but keeps the animals and handlers apart.
A new wall in the yard “will allow our keepers to train our elephants from outside the wall, while enhancing the visitor experience through up-close training demonstrations, like we offer at Glacier Run with polar and grizzly bears,” zoo spokeswoman Kyle Shepherd, said.
That separated, interactive training wall in the yard will allow the keepers to safely provide enrichment activities for the elephants and at the same time allow the public to see what’s going on.
The zoo recently unveiled an ambitious $180 million improvement plan to open new exhibits, enhance existing ones and add facilities to help the animals.
Major new exhibits, including ones focusing on crocodiles and sharks and another on Kentucky history that would include flatboat rides, are being proposed through 2028.
Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at 502-582-7089, or via email at [email protected].